Four days, two games, a birthday trip and the hangover from hell… So much to write about, so few words to do it in… just don’t know where to start?
OK, lets do this chronologically.
Saturday, Gillingham (a).
Another of Stan’s birthday trips to some footballing outpost with a few mates and the ahem… fair lady.
This year’s trip happened to be to the delights of the jewel of the Medway, old Gillingham town. It’s not as though there’s no history about the place; apparently Gillingham was mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086. That’s a pretty old town in anyone’s book, let alone Mr Doomsday’s!
In fact it makes it at least 923 years old, and by Stan’s reckoning that’s a hell of a long time never to get featured on Football Focus! Admittedly it was hardly a trip to set the juices flowing, but needs must and all that.
Right then, Saturday in a nutshell; looked tidy, lost a man, huffed and puffed, showed some admirable determination not to give up. One or two misplaced passes, lost our shape.
Did a bit of dribbling well away from the box but despite stubborn resistance we ultimately scored and ended up in a delirious heap feeling rather stupid….
But enough of our night in the Greenwich Union pub, what about the game?
Mmm, well…with the exception of Fraser Ratt’s ludicrous toilet conversation antics, exactly the same in all honesty.
In seriousness, huge credit for stickability and well done Rusty for being the only person in the whole of the Priestfield Stadium on 96 minutes who didn’t stop and go ‘Oooh, that was close!’ as Holt’s header ricocheted back off the cross-bar.
However, Stan had to disagree with Paul Lambert’s ‘best football we’ve played’ line he trotted out after the game.
Maybe Stan’s slow to adjust to the quality (lack of) on display down here, but there really was very little to set the pulse racing in terms of technical brilliance. Sublime touches and classy passages of play are going to be few and far between where we are presently at, but that’s not to say excitement can’t be found.
Rudd’s assured performance following Foster’s sending off offered a taste of the future. The lad looks hugely promising. Holt was once more a horse, and not one white shirted (err… why?!) player gave up or shirked a challenge when required.
Subsequently Stan headed for the pub with a little spring in his step, which is rather more than he had on Sunday morning when for a half-hour period he convinced himself he’d caught the plague the night before!
And so on to Tuesday and the arrival of some more friendly, jellied-eel-eating, pearl-festooned Londoners.
This time they were of the East rather than Sarf variety, and wasn’t it lovely to have the good folk of Leyton Orient back here after a 171-year absence? Not sure the British Transport Police will agree, but Stan was delighted to see them back in the fine City, after all, we don’t beat that many teams 4-0!
The return of Doc was the one big pre match talking point, but should his return really be such a surprise?
Lambert is certainly one to do the unexpected and you sensed that there is a lot of real-politik driving many of his decisions. He’s not going to let pride stop him from bringing a player back if he deems he’s the best option available, and credit to both Lambert and the Doc, it worked a treat.
We never really looked like losing, but as time went on there was a real danger that we were puffing against a brick house; when we did get beyond the banks of red shirts we were met with a keeper not only able to pull off stunning reaction blocks but also rise from the dead!
On 70 minutes, despite numerical and territorial advantage, as well as a shot count of about 5 to 1, we did look like a side out of ideas. Lambert clearly wasn’t having any of Stan’s doom-laden mumblings and his introduction of Tweedle Dee (or is it Dum?) proved inspirational.
A few minutes and a mightily sweet finish later, and Carrow Road breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The three that followed were little more than we deserved and as each one thumped into the net a tiny glimmer of light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel grew a bit bigger.
A top ten position, positive goal difference and a manager who really appears to know what he’s doing… even if you can’t understand a word he’s saying!
Indeed these are heady old days!